Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him. (Goodreads)
The Rage of Dragons came at a time where I was (and to some extent, still am) going through a reading slump. The thickness of the book alone should have made me apprehensive about reading it. Yet, from the cracking opening chapter to the jaw dropping finale, this book showed me how much I still can love a good book.
The plot of The Rage of Dragons is intricate in a way that Game of Thrones fans will love. The man character, Tau, is the poster boy/man for the reluctant hero in this book. At times, his story reminded me heavily of Arya’s from Game of Thrones, where everything takes second place to avenging the death of a loved one and destroying the life he once knew. Watching him persevere and make his way up the ranks in order to get to a position where he can challenge those he holds responsible for his change in circumstance, gripped me from beginning to end. He changes before your eyes and though you cannot deny that he exceeds the class he was born to, you can’t help but wondering at what cost.
Luckily, he ends up making friends with a group of other recruits within his training camp and it is these relationships that round, what could have been a very one-dimensional character, off. Without this band of equal misfits and the father like figure of their mentor Jaayyed, Tau would not have become the man he ends up at the end of the book.
It is difficult to really go into the plot without spoiling some of the very surprising turn of events and that’s what made this so enjoyable. There were a few characters that I had expected to make it to the end, only to be cut down early in Tau’s story. I will say right now that two deaths really shook me, one of which brought a lump to my throat as I had grown so very fond of this character. (It is so difficult to not go into spoilers)
What I can say, now the dust has settled and I have sat down to right this review is that this book evoked the same affection that I had for the first Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown.
What I can also say about The Rage of Dragons is that I have never read a book where you have so many epic battles, over different terrain and with different opponents to have such a fluid and almost dance like feel to them. I could clearly see the battle taking place, yet Winters has written them in such a way that they have this grace to them that is very difficult, at least for me, to visualise when reading. He brought home the horrors of those big set piece battles in such clarity that it was easy to get swooped up in the action.
By the time I closed this book, I was exhausted and yet dying to see what would come next. Though this battle may have been won, the war is far from over and the stakes never higher and much like the last few seasons of Game of Thrones, I wait with anticipation to see where the story will go next.
For a debut fantasy novel, this is a cracking read that I really can’t recommend enough. It more than lives up to the claim that it is “Game of Thrones” meets “Gladiator”, but even that is an understatement for a book that has helped this reader stuck in a rut, try and get back into her love in reading.
And on that note, all I can say is “The World Burns!”